Frequently Asked Questions
How do we get started, what are the technology basics?
Platform – We use a few platforms, Zoom is becoming a standard and is intuitive and easy to use. A free subscription allows meetings of 40 min. in length and an annual subscription is $150 for unlimited use.
Webcam – a must have. Newer laptops and monitors have them built in, if you need to add one or want a higher quality camera, there are several reasonably priced options. Here is one that we like.
Lighting – people want to see your face, that’s why we video conference! Make sure there is sufficient light on you face and that you aren’t overly backlit. Here are some lighting solutions that can make a difference.
Leading Virtually Q & A
How important is facilitation?
It’s important to designate a facilitator and create an agenda, even if you build it on the fly. When you aren’t physically together, err on the side of more structure to support the group. People want to be effective together and make good use of time, it works best to have someone with their eye on this.
How do I handle distractions and noise?
First, as a norm ask folks to mute themselves if they are not in a quiet space. When there is feedback or noise, pause the conversation to sort it out. Let people know when you hear background noise so they can mute themselves or the host can mute them.
How do we manage variation in tech abilities & equipment?
It helps to give a brief overview of the platform you are using, one or two minutes can really make a difference so that people know how to mute and unmute, raise hands, manage video and work the chat. We recommend organizations invest in equipping employees with technology that will enable quality interaction. A $35 camera allows team members to be seen and makes a huge difference.
How to handle distractions?
Make a request at the outset to set phones and alerts to silent so we can focus together. Many of us are working from homes that aren’t set up to be an office, there may be distractions in the room while we all share space, when that happens ask participants to use mute as needed, they may want to turn video off until the distraction has passed.
How do I read the virtual room?
When we’re physically separated, it takes more effort to “read the room.” Pause and ask how people are doing, ask what questions they have, ask them to post something in the chat that is related to your topic and gives you a sense of whether or not they are tracking with you. Doing this gives you a breather as well as a read on where they are so you can course-correct.
How do I manage/facilitate the technology, content and interaction?
If you are presenting material and trying to encourage interaction, we find it works best to work in teams with one person focusing on the content and the other on technology and chat. It lowers the stress and improves the quality of the meeting.
We’re shifting from in-person to virtual event, what should we consider?
Be clear about the purpose of the event and the experience you want to create, then build from there. Face to face meetings and events can successfully be converted to virtual, but it takes thoughtful planning. It does not work to keep the same agenda and simply do it on video. The tempo and engagement methods are different for a virtual meeting and critical to attend to for it to go well.
How do we create a sense of connection and intimacy virtually?
Ask engaging questions that will allow people to reveal something about themselves, starting with something simple that is not too much of a risk, like ice cream preference. As the group builds more trust and over time, introduce opportunities to share on more relevant topics. It helps to structure your questions so that they are in service of moving the conversation forward. People are more apt to be vulnerable when it supports progress on a topic that they care about.
Dealing with Conflict in a virtual setting?
As with any conflict situation, it is most effectively addressed in the context of a solid relationship. That said, there are ways to structure conversations to make them more effective. Ask everyone to have their video on so that faces are visible. Introduce the topic and ask how people are feeling about this discussion, sometimes being able to voice discomfort or worry and hearing how it is for others helps diffuse it a bit. Here is a basic flow to get you started:
Begin with a piece of the discussion where there is some alignment asking folks to weigh in so you can clarify where the difficulties are. Having identified the difficult areas, ask the group for ideas on how to address them. It may be that taking the difficult topics off-line for further exploration can support resolution. If your platform supports working in smaller groups, you can divide the group so that the issues are addressed in smaller groups of those who care most about that issue. Be sure to balance views in the groups so that none are over or under-represented and if you have folks who have a neutral stance on the topic include them as well. Ask groups to discuss the issue and come back with greater clarity about the view of the other as well as potential solutions they see. Make the request specific and doable, you may need to do more than one round.
How to support participants to be concise in check-ins?
Let participants know you want to preserve as much time as possible for the meeting and ask their help in keeping the check-in brief, sharing what they need to be present to this meeting – as one of our network members says “name it to tame it!” You could also ask them to use a one word or phrase check-in, with no explanation needed.
How to support more equal participation?
Giving guidelines up-front helps as does offering an audible timer if you have folks who tend to go on a bit. If that doesn’t take care of it, you can break in as someone is finishing and ask to hear from someone who has not yet participated in the discussion. It also helps to call on everyone in turn, so they don’t have to wonder or break into the conversation on their own. If someone doesn’t want to share, they can always say “pass.”
Synchronous or Asynchronous – how to decide?
A good rule of thumb is if the task lends itself to asynchronous working, do it that way. Start a Google doc, Mural board or similar with a provocative topic or question and ask people to get started there in their own timing and complete by the time of the meeting. Use the time when you are all together for activities and topics that benefit from real-time collaboration and conversation. Your team will appreciate your thoughtful approach and feel that their time is valued.
Tools that you can try and use on your next virtual meeting
Video Conference and Meeting:
Polling and Survey:
INXPO for a virtual exhibit hall
Eventfarm for virtual events
Teeoh for virtual events
Virtway Events for 3D virtual events
“Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.”
— Maya Angelou